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Valentine's Special: My Surprise Wedding

Like, for real. I had no clue.

I wrote this blog up in the week following our marriage. There's part of me that wants to go through and edit it, but more than anything...I want to honor the truth and excitement I had, newly married, dreams coming true.

Having been one to journal my whole life, I love the truth that comes out in the moment. Sometimes it’s hard to look back on things we’ve written and I know I’ve found my voice more in writing over the last 10 years. That said, I can’t take away this young, soon to be mom’s, excitement and see naivety. She had never been so happy and all the unimportant details were everything to her. So I will leave them and warn you, she left nothing out.

As I have posted small bits about our unusual wedding, I have gotten a lot of questions and comments.

How could you not know?

Well, we’d been together for ten years. I was six months pregnant after trying to conceive for 18 months. We had a miscarriage, fertility meds, and many sad months of not understanding why this would not happen. We had been through a lot, and I had proposed to him almost every day 😂. My husband is a thinker, he likes to have everything in order, he struggles with big decisions, and marriage was not one he took lightly. I knew he would marry me, I had given up on a big flashy wedding. I was ok with that, I wanted him and our son. I think my dad said it best when he quoted Jean Jacques Rosseau,

“He who is the slow in making a promise is the most faithful in the performance of it.”

In short, I had no idea. Not any inkling that this was happening. I was frustrated that it hadn’t happened but elated that I was having a baby and knew he would marry me one day. I had given up on a fairytale wedding, and then he gave me just that. Even if I had been told it was happening, I wouldn’t have believed it. Seriously.

I would DIE!!! (Lot’s of people experience anxiety when they hear about this rare wedding)

I think there were some, including my photographer, who worried I would be upset that I didn’t get to micromanage the details of the day. I was not. Oh my gosh it was so legit to have it all done for me. It was the best day of my life. I was in awe that Brian and my family had pulled this together, it felt like a dream, a movie, it was so hard to believe it was real and my life. It was more than I could have ever dreamed. My mom and sister-in-law thought of everything. My brothers and dad covered for him and kept me from being pissed when he was on the phone and “surfing” nonstop. All of my little nieces and my nephew managed to stay quiet. It was a joint effort. It was beautiful.

There was ZERO stress. This wedding may not be for everyone, but there will never be anyway to top what it was for me.

What about those who couldn’t be there?

This was hard. My list of bridesmaids was long, too long. There were so many who had been through so much with us. There were plenty of our family members who weren’t there. In the end, Brian did this for me. He knew that more than anything, I needed my brothers, their families, and my parents to be there with me. My family is my whole world, and there was a good chance this would become impossible in the coming year.

He put this together in only two days, and his only focus was giving me a wedding that I no longer thought was possible. He honored me with this decision, and his focus was only on me. I will never be able to express what that meant to me. Feelings were hurt, and some were upset, but a marriage is about two people. We were becoming a family; he didn’t just become my husband; he bared a part of himself in this act that is rarely seen and that I treasure deeply. He did this for me, and it’s the most beautiful and meaningful thing he could have done.

*we had a killer reception 10 months later with all the people.

In the end, it was the experience and the incredible act put forth. The greatest and most elaborate weddings have no promise of survival. Our marriage has not been a fairytale, I don't know that one truly exists. I am forever grateful that I didn't get the wedding I dreamed of as a child, this taught me and changed me in so many ways. That's another blog for another day.

So without further ado....our wedding story, as told by my little

28-year-old self: I’ve been trying to figure out where to start with this whole story, nine years with someone leads to a lot of options...but I figure I’ll leave the majority of that time out and start with the engagement. I have a feeling this will still end up quite the novel. Christmas morning came and went in it’s typical fashion. Brian, my parents, and I had a lovely calm morning followed by the beautiful chaos of nieces and nephews showing up and ripping open gifts in record time. We had a large group coming for dinner but Brian, my brother, and two of my nieces wanted to surf and it was a beautiful day so I agreed to go, but only for a little while. We ended up at Rincon State Beach, just south of Santa Barbara. It was a perfect day and the waves were amazing. I spent an hour taking pictures while everyone surfed and was pleasantly surprised when Brian came in without my having to embarrass us both by storming out into the ocean, in an Italian fit, screaming for him to come in. He changed out of his wetsuit and tried to stall in order to wait for the girls to come in. I was ready to get home and help my mom, and the girls were not coming in any time soon so he ditched idea #1 (using my nieces to help him propose). He asked me to grab his board since we were packing up and when I turned around the ring box was tied up with a bow sitting on his surfboard. He got down on one knee and blew me away, I said “yes” and we spent the evening having quite the impromptu engagement party with my family. Brian had asked my dad for my hand on Christmas Eve, for such an untraditional relationship this was quite the traditional engagement. It was easily The Best Christmas Ever.

The next day we went to my grandparent's house with my brothers, my sister-in-law, and their kids along with my cousins. Brian was on the phone a bit, but with being gone from work, I thought little of it. We were supposed to leave for home the next day and I was feeling sorry for myself for having to leave my family and the celebration so soon. We drove home with my spazzy nieces dancing and singing in the back of the car when Brian informed me that he had gotten an extra day, and possibly the rest of the week, off of work. I was ecstatic...thought I couldn’t get any happier. The next morning (Tuesday the 27th) Brian confirmed he had the whole week off and asked if he could take me to Santa Barbara the next day for lunch to celebrate our engagement, I rarely give up an opportunity to be spoiled, so I of course agreed and sent him off to surf for the day. My mom and sister-in-law had spent about an hour in the morning shopping with my nieces and the rest of the day was spent with my dad in the hospital trying to determine if a broken leg had led to a blood clot. It was an emotional day as we all were afraid of the worst-case scenario but tests showed negative for a blood clot and they came home that evening. My mom was a little more emotional than usual that night, but I thought little of it, simply glad my dad was going to be ok. Brian got home late from surfing...just in time to watch me eat nearly everything off the menu from the Alamo (not your typical pre-wedding meal). Wednesday morning I got up early with Brian and spent a little time with my parents before they had to go back into Reseda for an MRI on my dad’s leg. Brian was eager to get to Santa Barbara early, which really just indicated to me that he wanted to get some good surfing in. I wasn’t in as big of a rush. My parents left and Brian informed me that my parents had gotten us a room in Santa Barbara for the night to celebrate the engagement. He told me he thought it was meant to be a surprise but that he thought I might want to pack. I got ready and called my parents to thank them, in all honesty, I was a little sad that we weren’t going to be spending precious last moments with family (my brother and his family are being re-stationed to South Carolina, and he is likely to end up overseas again soon). Still, was touched and knew that we should take the opportunity to celebrate in such a beautiful place while we could. I put on a very small amount of make-up knowing we would probably spend the day on the beach. I went to get dressed and saw that Brian was dressed quite nicely, “to fit in with the SB dudes,” and followed suit dressing in whatever semi-decent outfit I could get on this growing body. I figured we were going to a nice lunch. We get on the road at about 9:45 am (for lunch?!?!) and it’s a beautiful day, about 75 degrees and a clear blue sky. Brian asks me if I’ve ever been to the Santa Barbara courthouse and I tell him I think I have for a field trip at some point and that I know it’s beautiful, my exact words were “ to have their weddings there. It’s so pretty.” He said he wanted to go there and check it out...and what if we got our marriage license while we were in Santa Barbara since we had gotten engaged there? (Side note...this blew me away) I’ve looked into many different things when it comes to getting married and I’ve got to be honest...I didn’t know if this was the best idea, seemed a little bit dangerous and possibly difficult but Brian said he had looked into it. Apparently, we would have to get married in California within 90 days of having the license issued and so without question (at the thought of an actual deadline) I said “let’s do it.” He told me we kind of had to hurry because the courthouse closed at 12, and this was why he had been rushing me all morning.

You’d think that I would have been questioning some of these things, but honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind to question anything. Every new little surprise (engagement, days off, lunch in SB, hotel room, courthouse...) was better than the last, and I was reveling in how incredible everything seemed. We arrived at the courthouse around 10:45. This isn’t your average courthouse; it’s a historical landmark with incredible architecture and an 80ft clock tower with 360-degree views of Santa Barbara. As we walked up the street I suggested that we go to the top of the clock tower after getting our license to take some pictures. The application process was standard. Long line, angry government worker uninterested in our happiness, ridiculous paperwork, and money, I was too happy to care, though. With a few signatures, Brian Barnett would now finally have to set a date...and it would, without a doubt, be before our son was born. It made some sense why we were dressed nicely now, and I couldn’t wait for our day of celebrating to begin. On the way out of the Hall of Records, I was just so happy...again, I didn’t think it could get much better. We searched around for a bathroom for me, and my shrinking bladder and Brian had to make a few more phone calls “for work.” I was eager to get to the top of the clock tower since Brian had told me the courthouse "closed at noon," so while he was trying to stall and pretend like he didn’t know how to get there, I was being a brat and rushing him. We went to the elevator and got on with a number of other people including a woman who appeared to be a minister, she had a robe on her arm, not such an unusual sight for a courthouse. We ascended, and I was blissfully unaware of what was waiting for me up top. The elevator lets out below the viewing level, and as the doors opened, I saw my nephew and step-niece standing at the doors. In my head, this just seemed like a very crazy coincidence. Karla was in town visiting,, and so was their grandmother, and Santa Barbara is a regular trip for all of them...neither of them quite knew how to react though. Looking back now, it was comical. Neither would talk to me, Gregory was literally trying to be invisible and blend in with the wall, I was not really thinking much of it and within a few seconds, Brian stepped in and said, “let’s see who else is up there.” I had no idea what was going on or what was about to happen.

We walked up the steps and onto the landing and there stood my parents and brothers and their families. Words can’t describe the thoughts and feelings I had, my mom yelled “it’s a wedding!” and Brian introduced me to the minister very briefly before I could understand and I began to cry tears of such joy...I’m not sure such a feeling has ever been felt by anyone before. When I looked over to see my old dear friend, and ridiculously talented photographer, Adam, I knew this was for real and I believe the pictures are the only way to explain how I felt in that moment. I’m hoping Adam caught a few decent ones’s hard to look too great when experiencing that kind of emotion.

I was very glad that I had at least tried to dress nice that morning, but before I could spend much time thinking about how I looked my mom said “do you want a dress???” and Jen grabbed me and said, “we’ve got 10 minutes.” They whisked me away downstairs, I was smiling ear to ear and in so much shock. We ran down the old halls of the courthouse, laughing and crying in disbelief as I continued to ask “is this really happening? This is my wedding?!?” Indeed it was, and it was incredible. I stripped down, and they told me they had chosen two dresses but thought that there was one I needed to wear as they pulled out a tight gold dress.

I’m thinking...oh dear God...this will look great with my big belly, but as they zipped it up and it tightened up around that little boy growing inside me. In all honestly, I would have worn anything, but the dress they found was perfect. I went to put my sandals on (thinking I was glad I hadn’t worn my converse) when my mom said, “hmmm...I think you need some different shoes,” and pulled out a box I recognized, and I began to cry before even seeing the beautiful “Cinderella slippers” they had found for me.

As we poured over the details of this day for the next few days we talked about a great deal of things. Brian had worked for a day and a half to pull everything together (there was no surfing). Without any of the extras it would, without a doubt, have remained the most amazing wedding day, one I could have never even dreamed of. The other details were what we called “sprinkles” and they were amazing ones. Getting to have my family there at all was a sprinkle, the dress and the shoes...sprinkles, the flowers and cake my mom was able to get...sprinkles, and the fact that Adam was able to come to SB with one day's notice, providing these incredible pictures.

It’s a beautiful kind of heartache, the feeling you get when the world becomes so perfect. When people work together to make something more than you could dream of. When the man of your dreams goes against all odds (as I’m sure there were plenty of bets out there) and does something so spectacular and amazing and right.

We returned to the tower and Brian had changed into a new suit that remarkably matched perfect with the dress my mom and sister had chosen for me. My brothers walked me up the stairs from the elevator and my dad ditched his crutches to walk me across the landing to my future. We stood looking out over the coast of Santa Barbara to the South and our minister performed a beautiful ceremony. While I’m not sure exactly what all she said, I remember every second of our vows and the look in my new husband’s eyes. I had waited a long time for that, and it was worth every second. The rest of the day was exquisite. We had a lunchtime reception at Elements in Santa Barbara and took pictures on a bluff above the ocean at sunset. Our wedding pictures, by Adam Kent Photography, are bound to be amazing and I’ll be sure to share when I can. We had an incredible evening, just the two of us at dinner and in a beautiful upgraded executive suite at the Fess Parker Doubletree. We then returned the next day to pack and pour over all of the details again with family.

Looking back there were a lot of clues that something was going on, but as I’ve said to many already...after nine years, there was no way my mind would have ever been able to concoct this as a possibility. Even if someone had sat down with me that morning and laid out all the little clues, I would have thought they were crazy. I’m not sure how to explain how I feel about the man to who I am now married. He is simply incredible and true to his word. He is reliable and thorough...and just so amazing and thoughtful to have given me such an unbelievable experience. I’m not sure he’ll ever understand what it all meant to me. Without a doubt, there were many who we wished could be there on the day we finally got married but with life changes I knew that there was no big wedding in our future and I would have been elated with a much less ornate courthouse ceremony and a judge as our witness. He gave me something I thought was no longer possible. Newly Wed...and still in shockWe will be having a big celebration come this October where we hope to have all of those who we wish could have been with us. Thank you so much to everyone for your incredible support and love, we are feeling it! We can’t wait for all the amazing things this year will bring, with our new marriage and our little miracle due in May!

So much love, Katie Anne-Berardinelli Barnett

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